The North Korean military has around 30,000 electronic warfare specialists with capabilities rivaling those of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Fox News reported Tuesday, citing defectors and other sources.
The U.S. broadcaster’s report titled “North Korea’s cyber army gets increasingly sophisticated,” came after a series of cyber attacks on key government and corporate websites in South Korea, which Seoul officials believe were masterminded by the communist state.
“According to defectors, the North Korean military has amassed as many as 30,000 electronic warfare specialists and they have become the elite core of the military,” the report said.
“Defectors say that the regime now culls the brightest students from the nation’s universities and funnels them into special secret schools that concentrate on hacking and developing cyber warfare programs targeted at South Korea.”
Pointing out that among the most frequent visitors to U.S. military web sites are computers traced to the North, it said the North could pose a serious threat to U.S. military networks.
“In fact, South Korea’s intelligence agencies now believe that North Korea has the capability to paralyze the U.S. Pacific Command and cause extensive damage to defense networks inside the United States,” the report said.
Citing one defector, who was an officer in the North Korean electronic warfare command, the report said, “The heart of the effort is centered at Automation University, where 100 to 110 hackers a year are trained in advanced electronic espionage every year.”
It also cited a comment by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on the importance of electronic warfare in the modern-era war, underscoring that Kim has made cyber warfare a “top, though secret, priority of his paranoid regime.”
The comment appeared in a manual on electronic warfare, which was published by the North Korean military in 2005 and obtained by a South Korean Christian group last August.
“As I mentioned many times before, the modern-day warfare is electronic warfare. Success in a modern war depends on how we carry out the electronic warfare operations,” Kim said in the manual.
The latest cyber attack on April 12 that paralyzed the banking system of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, or Nonghyup, for several weeks, has prompted public calls for stronger measures to safeguard key financial institutions in the South from the new kind of cyber terrorism.
“The North started making efforts to bolster cyber warfare capabilities in the early 1980s. They invited 30 to 40 computer experts from the former Soviet Union to raise cyber warriors. Well-performing students were chosen as researchers or sent to the military intelligence body,” Hong Sung-pyo, military strategy professor at the graduate school for national strategy at National Defense University, told The Korea Herald.
Experts say that the North has turned to cyber warfare tactics as it is aware that it cannot defeat its more affluent enemy forces with conventional, symmetrical war strategies.
Kim Heung-kwang, who defected to the South in 2004 after working as a professor at a computer technology university in the North for 20 years, said that the North was focusing on cyber and electronic warfare capabilities as it can cause massive damage to its enemy at low cost.
“Cyber warfare capabilities are asymmetrical ones that can shake up the centerpiece of the South Korean society. The cost of establishing and running cyber warfare facilities is very low while its impact is great,” he told The Korea Herald.
“The North appears to be taking advantage of the weak sense of security in cyberspace in South Korea as witnessed in the recent attack on Nonghyup.”
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com
"북한 해킹인력 3만명, CIA와 견줄만"
북한이 사이버전쟁에 대비해 해킹 인력 3만명을 육성하고 있으며, 그 능력이 CIA(중앙정보국)에 필적한다는 보도가 나와 눈길을 끈다.
미국 폭스뉴스는 김정일이 ”현대전은 전자전이다. 현대전의 승리와 패배는 전자전을 어떻게 수행하느냐에 달려있다“고 수년 전 언급한 이후 북한이 사이버전 능력 향상을 최우선으로 추진해 왔다면서 17일 이같이 전했다.
미 국방부에 따르면 미군 웹사이트를 가장 빈번하게 접속하는 방문자들 가운데는 북한에 있는 것으로 추적되는 컴퓨터들이 있다고 이 방송은 전했다.
또 폭스뉴스는 탈북자들을 증언을 인용, 북한이 3만명에 이르는 전자전 특수병력을 보유하고 있으며, 이들이 군의 핵심 엘리트들이 되고 있다고 소개했다.
탈북자들은 북한 당국이 대학교의 가장 우수한 학생들을 뽑아 해킹과 사이버전 프로그램을 개발하는데 주력하는 비밀 학교에 보낸다고 전했다. 이들 학교 중 한 곳은 워낙 보안이 심해 외부인 가운데는 김정일만이 그 학교를 방문했다고 알려져 있다.
이들 비밀 학교 중 한 곳에 다니고 북한의 전자전사령부에서 일했던 한 탈북자는 북한의 자동화대학이 핵심이라면서 이 곳에서 1년에 100~110명 가량의 해커들이 배출된다고 전했다.
특히 폭스뉴스는 미국과 한국이 추정한 바에 따르면 북한의 (해킹 및 사이버전) 능력은 CIA와 필적하는 수준이라고 보도했다.
또 이 방송은 한국의 정보기관들은 현재 북한이 미 태평양군사령부를 마비시키고, 미국 내국방관련 네트워크들에 광범위한 피해를 발생시킬 능력을 갖고 있는 것으로 파악하고 있다고 덧붙였다.